NHRA Power Rankings: Erica Enders, Andrew Hines take over top spots following Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Erica Enders is one of the reasons I wanted to create something like NHRA Power Rankings. She has two wins since I started working at the National Hot Rod Association, far from the nine-win peak that carried her to a second-straight Pro Stock title in 2015. But Enders has only improved since joining the door slamming category fulltime; she’s a better driver in 2019 than when she won back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.
So, what changed? Enzo Ferrari once said racing is 50 percent car and 50 percent driver. That’s almost certainly true in road racing. In drag racing? That ratio needs some adjustment. Enders is, in this writer’s opinion, the best driver in the Pro Stock category. Equipment matters a lot in all forms of motorsport, but not in any as much as it does in the NHRA.
Enders averaged a .024 reaction time average since the start of the 2016 season. Deric Kramer is the only active driver in her wheelhouse with a .031, and Enders red lights half as often. That’s what makes her so good – she can play right on the edge without going over the line … which is what makes her red light against the Colorado native so surprising. No one is perfect, not even Enders, but her flirtation with perfection is what brought her back to the front of the NHRA Power Rankings after leading Pro Stock at the beginning of the season.
Being the best driver in Pro Stock hasn’t always brought Enders Wallys, but she’s always a tough matchup despite fighting her equipment on a weekly basis. It can be easy to forget about Enders because we think of her as a known quantity. That does her a disservice. She’s competing in arguably the toughest category against ridiculous competition and winning week after week because of what she can do in the driver’s seat. It’s hard to oversell what Enders brings to the table – and that’s why it’s always worth digging deeper into the numbers.
-Andrew Hines has steadily improved his NHRA Power Ranking ever since the start of the season. The new chassis he's on is phenomenal and that new piece played the biggest role in him moving from No. 3 at the start of the season to No. 1 now. He's always been great, it's just crowded at the top.
-Deric Kramer has moved up four spots from eighth to fourth since the start of the season. His horsepower is good, but more importantly he’s not turning on the red light as often. That’s great news for his championship chances.
-Karen Stoffer is really good. She has always been good and is back on a motorcycle that allows everyone to fawn over how good she is. Her .02-second reaction time average nearly scored her a victory over defending champ Matt Smith in Chicago. She’s moved up nine NHRA Power Ranking places this year.
-Ryan Oehler has nearly done the same. He’s moved up six spots this year, also thanks in part to horsepower. He does not quite have the riding experience of Stoffer, but he and his dad Brad Oehler have got that EBR singing.
-Robert Hight has been No. 1 in NHRA Power Rankings for all but one of our updates, but the boss (that’s John Force) has made the biggest move, alongside Matt Hagan, this season. The two frenemies have moved four spots since starting the season seventh and sixth, respectively.
-The Mike Salinas/Clay Millican/Brittany Force storyline will not go away because I’m one of the people that keeps talking about it. Salinas has moved up six places, Force has moved down five places and Millican has moved down nine places. Sometimes things surprise you. Sometimes they go exactly the way you thought they would.